Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sugar Free Christmas Treats

Like many Americans and people around the world, I am reducing the amount of sugar in my diet.  It is not an easy (or fun) task, but it is so important for our health.  The holidays are known for its sugary treats, but back in the day, when these things were rare, it was a treat!  Now we can go to the grocery store and see hundreds of varieties of cookies, cakes, ice creams and all kinds of treats.

To help keep the holidays a bit sane when it comes to sugar, here are a few sugar free treats that can be available to the ones who don't want to blow it during the holidays.  I hope you find one or two that can be in your home!

Layered Peppermint Patties by Paleo Flourish Magazine
Sugar Free Pumpkin Pudding by Premeditated Leftovers
Sugar Free Snickerdoodles by What Mommy Does
Copy Cat Ferrero Rocher by Sugar Free Mom
Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies by the Healthy Foodie
Sea Salt Chocolate Caramels by Forest and Fauna
Pumpkin Spice Thumbprint Cookies by A Girl Worth Saving
Cranberry Almond Cookies by Step Away from the Carbs

I know a lot of people think that "it's Christmas, indulge!" but this list is for the person that can't, as it is a life or death situation. Holidays are meant to be enjoyed by all, and hopefully this list will let those celebrate as heartily as the rest of the world!

Merry Christmas! #itsnevertooearly

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

DIY Christmas Stockings

You might remember that my family has decided to spend Christmas in Mexico.  While I am very excited about it, I am also feeling very nostalgic about our traditions.  One tradition will continue even when we are on vacation, and that is Christmas stockings!

Burlap Christmas Stocking by Craft Passion
Easy Christmas Stockings by Craftaholics Anonymous
Classic Cuffed Stockings by Positively Splendid
DIY Sweater Stockings by Confessions of a Serial DIYer
Woven Stockings by a Beautiful Mess
Stiletto Christmas Stockings by Interior Frugalista
Duct Tape Stockings by Club Chica Cirlce
Fur Topped Stocking by Jessie at Home
Crochet Stocking by With a Grateful Prayer and a Thankful Heart
DIY Felt Stockings by Homemade Ginger
Fur Flannel Stocking Pattern by Girl Inspired

My thoughts right now are to pack up a suitcase with our traditional stockings and all the gifts we will have for them.  I am thinking that the "gifts" will mostly be experiences to have in Cabo.  Like a whale watching trip, a special homemade dinner in the condo, etc.  The gifts might be just the description of the event on a card and the card will go into the stocking.  Maybe some gift cards, too. I am still brainstorming right now.  Any ideas greatly appreciated!!

Do you have traditions centered around stockings?  Tell us yours!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Dealing with Christmas Stress

Yep, I have heard it said time and time again:  Christmas can be a stressful time.  So many of us get caught up in the details, will the brothers start arguing about politics again?  Will the turkey be browned and juicy?  These details can weigh us down and create feelings of wishing the holidays would "just be over."

Are you familiar with the Christmas truce of 1914?  I wasn't until I read about it on the internet.    It seems that Pope Benedict the XV wanted a temporary cease fire at Christmas but the generals on each side refused.  When Christmas came around, the soldiers chose to lay down their weapons. Soldiers from each side exchanged gifts, shared food, and played football!  What a sight that must have been!

Our holidays do not have to be stressful.  We can let the potatoes be lumpy and the turkey a bit dry.  It is the love of our family and friends that must be foremost on this holiday.  Set aside your worries and family dramas and enjoy Christmas as it is meant to be.

These tried and true tips help me each year.  I hope one or two of them will help you, too!

1.  Plan Ahead!  Read my post here about 21 things to do before December 1.

2.  Shop Online!  I loved having packages delivered to my home and avoiding the mall!

3.  Stick to a budget. This is hard for me, but in February I am so grateful I did.  Make a list, get creative but adhere to the limits you set for yourself.

4.  Build in self care.  Schedule your hair appts, massages, manis and pedis and any other self care that you need.  Schedule it and then, follow your schedule.

5.  Learn to breathe properly.  This is a skill you need to learn. You will be surprised at the difference it will make.

6.  Do less and enjoy more.  Pick how busy you want to be.  We schedule our events carefully and then purchase tickets to the ones we really want to do.  I like to be more busy than my husband, so I schedule things to do with girlfriends and he relaxes the way he likes!

If you have another holiday destresser, share it with us in the comments!  Can't wait to learn more!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

DIY Christmas Wreaths

If you do nothing else to decorate at Christmas, put a festive wreath on your door.  This little act will cheer you each and every time you see it.  All of these wreaths will make you smile, too.  I love taking a wreath to a Christmas party for the hostess.  Wreaths can be used inside and out, at the office or on the barn door.  There is no limit to the opportunities for a pretty wreath.

Woodland Christmas Wreath by Craft-O-Maniac
Starlight Mint Wreath by Burlap and Blue
Christmas Candy Wreath by Dollar Store Crafts
Christmas Rag Wreath by Bless This Mess
Faux Leather and Flannel Wreath by the Crafted Sparrow
Christmas Twig Wreath by Confessions of a Serial DIYer
Joy Wreath by the Idea Room
DIY Eucalyptus and Pine Wreath by the Sweetest Occasion
Hydrangea Christmas Wreath by Simply Designing
Paper Christmas Wreath by Lia Griffith
Family Photo Wreath by the Crafting Chicks
Wine Cork Wreath by Design Improvised
Fresh Holly Wreath by Garden Therapy

The history behind the holly wreath is lovely.  The circle of the wreath represents the circle of life. Evergreen branches symbolize everlasting life and when holly is used in a wreath, its prickly thorns represent the thorns on Jesus' crown.  Whether or not you are a believer, the history and legend behind the wreath is fun to know.

Which of these is your favorite? Do you hang a wreath on your door for the holidays?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Surprise Gift Wrappings

My mother had a real talent for gift wrapping in unusual ways.  Each year she would give my dad his annual hunting and fishing license for Christmas.  She was so good at coming up with tricky ways to disguise what was a gift he knew he was getting.

One year she taped the license to a brick and then wrapped the brick.

She opened a box of cereal and slipped it into the cereal and wrapped the cereal as a gift.

One year she did a progressive sized boxing and the license was in the smallest box.

She placed the license in a book once.

I remember the license was in a coffee can.

And you know what? My dad was always able to guess that the license was in that package!  I remember how it always made us giggle, that dad could always figure out which package had the license!

To spark your own creativity, check out this list of wonderful ways to wrap your own Christmas gifts! And, if you have any great ideas for my mom, please leave them here!

15 Unique Gift Wrap Ideas
Santa Belt Gift Wrap by Craft Passion
Printable Gift Boxes by Lolly Jane
Fabric Gift Wrap by the Sweetest Occasion
Kraft Paper with Cupcake Liner Bows by Craftaholics Anonymous
Personalized Photo Gift Tags by Simply Designing
Burlap Gift Bag by Uncommon Designs
Recycled Paper Strips Gift Wrap by the Country Chic Cottage
Canvas Drop Cloth Gift Wrap by the Idea Room
Coloring Page Gift Bows by Lines Across
Polka Dot Gift Wrap by I Try DIY
Lunch Bag Holiday Wrapping by Lovely Indeed
Napkin Gift Wrap by Hello Glow
Atlas Paper Wrap by a Beautiful Mess

DIY Confetti Gift Bags by Mod Podge Rocks

Which is your favorite??  I am all about that map gift wrap, wouldn't that be fun for a set of airline tickets?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Christmas Countdown Ideas

I adore counting down to Christmas! I love advent calendars and those cute little pocket things with little trinkets inside! I shop for trinkets all year around, especially when we travel. I love picking up items that are unique to the area.  For example, when we were in Cabo last, I picked up individually wrapped Mexican chocolates! I also found some delightful individually wrapped tea bags using Mexican vanilla and tea.  What trinkets are you finding out there?  This is a great time to get good deals on school supplies AND Christmas is a great time to receive new ones!  Here are some wonderful ways to count down to Christmas that you will want to make.

Christmas Tree Countdown by My Sister’s Suitcase
Christmas Countdown Garland by the Crafting Chicks
Christmas Book Countdown by Positively Splendid
Advent Countdown Calendar by Design Dazzle
DIY Advent Jar by Mess for Less
DIY Boxes Advent Calendar by Powerful Mothering
25 Days of Service by I Heart Naptime

So who started all this counting down to Christmas?  Back in the day, the celebrants of Christ's birthday used Advent to lead up to the event.  Each Sunday was a set of prayers and scriptures that were said and candles were lit.  Some attribute the countdown fad to German carpenters in the 19th century who made wooden calendars of tiny drawers in which a treat was held.  This led the way to the current explosion of ways to countdown to Christmas.  Whomever you give credit, it is a wonderful way to build the excitement for one of my favorite holidays.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

21 Things I Do Before December 1

Christmas lovers agree that planning carefully is what makes the season extra special.  Having certain things in place before the official Christmas season makes the season far less stressful.  Here are my 21 things to do before December 1.

  1. I pin every day.  I look for ideas on the things I am planning and I pin away!  Links to my Christmas boards are here
  2. I organize my Christmas stuff by sorting what stays and what is going. I take photos and start selling my stuff in November.
  3. I plan my Christmas card and photo.  We love to send photo cards!
  4. I work on my Christmas blog.  We use this instead of a newsletter.  Here is are our Christmas blogs from years past.
  5. I create a paper calendar for the month of December.  I write down all the dates of events that I hear about on Facebook, online, word of mouth, etc.  When we buy tickets, all that gets added to the paper calendar.
  6. Make a list of movies that I want to revisit and ones that are being released that I want to see.
  7. Create my Spotify list.  I add some songs and take off some that I didn't care for the last year.
  8. Buy a new Santa hat!  When the Christmas stuff starts to make its appearance, I want to buy something and this is something I know I will use!
  9. I order my husband a new set of Christmas socks.
  10. Through the fall I will make and taste several cookies and candies.  Since I am going low carb as much as possible, this is going to be a big event for me this year!
  11. Using the Starbucks app, I look for the season's holiday drinks, look at what I can do to reduce the sugar, and load my "created" recipe into the app for easy ordering!
  12. Send out Facebook invites to my family for our holiday gatherings. I know, they probably roll their eyes, but we almost always have every one there because they knew well in advance when our family gatherings were.
  13. Decide on the lighting plan for the exterior of the house.  This year, even though we are going to Cabo for Christmas, we plan to decorate the exterior even more than ever.  If the inside is going to be lightly decorated, then we are making up for it outside!
  14. Look for the perfect sugar free hot chocolate!  I'll be experimenting with my own recipes!
  15. Purchase my holiday wear.  I always look for a festive sweater, a festive long sleeved tee shirt, and freshen up my Christmas jewelry.
  16. Order my share of Christmas fiction. I love books that have the Christmas holiday as a background.
  17. My hairdresser thinks I am nuts, but I book my November and December cuts and color now. These are time consuming events, so I want to be sure I have them booked and planned into the calendar.
  18. I order our Christmas pjs as soon as I see them. I was able to get our tee shirts at the Christmas in July sale and now I am looking for leggings or pj bottoms.  
  19. Instead of air fresheners we diffuse essential oils, so I make sure I order my pine, cinnamon, sweet orange and peppermint!
  20. I get our gas fireplace serviced in October.  This year I might even switch up the logs!
  21. Last but not least by any means, I find out when The Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon is live on TV.  I know I can call it up anytime on Netflix, but I want the thrill of gathering around the TV and watching it as a family.  Call me old fashioned.
What are your MUST DOs before December first?  Share your secrets and help us all be better prepared for the best holiday ever!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Christmas Candies that You will Love!

Another treat I love to indulge in over the holidays is Christmas candy.  I love that I can give a little and that it will go a long way.  I am learning that a batch can be divided into four gifts, in a smaller tin and it is appreciate as much for its smallness as it is for its taste!

With the world watching its sugar intake, it is safe to say that I won't be making as much candy as usual, so I am considering doing a candy swap with my neighbors. Not as fancy as the cookie exchange, but the idea that I will make a pound of fudge and give her half, if she will give me half of her turtles.  It seems to be a fair exchange!  Plus, cuts down on the amount of work!  Take a look at these goodies and tell me, which two would you want to trade for?

15 Christmas Candy Recipes

Christmas Tree Chocolate Bark by Premeditated Leftovers
Candy Cane Fudge by the Jenny Evolution
Pistachio Cranberry Bark by Flour on My Face
Pumpkin Fudge by Nemcsok Farms
Crockpot Christmas Candy by Almost Super Mom
Cinnamon Whiskey Balls by Home Cooking Memories
English Toffee by the Idea Room
Peppermint Patties by the Gunny Sack
Cinnamon Candy by a Southern Fairytale
Muddy Buddies by Crazy Little Project
Microwave Caramels by Simple As That
Coconut Cream Truffles by Crazy for Crust
Christmas White Chocolate Peppermint Popcorn by the Kitchen is My Playground
Chocolate Caramel Pecan Turtles by Lil’ Luna

If you already are a wizard at one of these delicious candies, please leave any tips you have for making them in the comments below.  Let's make our Christmas candy making experiences be good ones!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

DIY Christmas Tree Ornaments

One of the Christmas traditions in my house is to make ornaments for a group of women who have been my friends for nearly 20 years now.  We met when Gooseberry Patch had a online chat group and have been friends ever since.  We have hosted an ornament exchange for eight years and the sign up for the ninth one has begun!

All of these adorable ornaments would be worthy candidates for the exchange. I did choose one that I will show you later, but for now it is a secret!  Part of the fun is the surprise of opening the box and seeing what ornaments everyone made, so I won't be the one to ruin the fun!

Pom Poms and Pinecones Ornaments by One Little Project
Wooden Sled Ornament by Fireflies and Mudpies
Scrabble Tile Ornament by Crafts by Amanda
Faux Wood Burn Ornaments by Simple As That
Mini Wreath Ornaments by A Cultivated Nest
Bottle Cap Reindeer – by Country Chic Cottage
Button Ornaments – by Stephanie Lynn
Mini Button Tree – by Childhood 101
Bottle Brush Tree Ornaments by Cupcakes and Crinoline

Wooden Tree Succulent Ornaments by Craftaholics Anonymous

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Etsy Christmas Favorites that are Available Now!

I like to get a head start on my Christmas decor and shopping and so I headed to my favorite online store: Etsy!  Are you an Etsy fan, too?  I am all about artists and their handmade goodness, especially at Christmas.  Support homemade!!

Santa Sack

I am in love with Christmas plaid, so these really caught my eye.  The Santa Sack continues in our family, even though our kids are grown! Apply the CHRISTMASJULY discount code to receive 20% discount off $10 or more!  I love it when my favorite sellers come through for us!  

Stocking Name Tags

With our ever changing family, personalized stockings were hard to keep up with, so these adorable stocking name tags were a great solution!

Fresh Balsam Wreaths

Ok, so you can't order this now!  But add it to your list of things to do in November.  Just looking at this wreath gets me all thrilled for Christmas!

Lobster Tree Skirt

Maybe because I am going to spend Christmas in Cabo, but this lobster tree skirt caught my attention!  Isn't it adorable?

Advent Counting

Since you are planning early, you have plenty of time to fill these adorable little containers with cute gifts.  I love this idea!

Christmas Ornament Kit

Again, you are planning early, so creating these adorable little ornaments will be a breeze!  Perfect for packages, neighbors and of course, your own tree!

And here it is, the Christmas Planner that I just love!  Pages and pages (72 to be exact) of Christmas helpfulness!  And for Christmas Tree Lane readers, you can apply the discount code of 5MONTHSTOGO to get 15% off $10 or more purchase! Isn't that nice!!  Tell Joleen I sent you!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Christmas Cookies!

Who can resist a post called Christmas Cookies, I tell you!!

I host a Christmas Cookie Exchange every year the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  About this time each year, I start taste testing the cookies that I want to try.  There are some important considerations for the cookies that are MUSTS:

  • 1.  The cookie must withstand packing.  No crumbly mess for my cookies!
  • 2.  The cookie must be small enough to pack in my container (12).  That sounds like that might be on me, but no, some cookies are designed to be huge!
  • 3.  The cookie can be creative but not take too much time for each cookie. I could be making up to 240 of the same cookie!
  • 4.  The cookie ingredients must be easily found. If I make a major league boo boo, I will need to be   able to restock the ingredients without ordering.
  • 5.  It must taste OUTSTANDING!

These cookies are ones that I am eager to try!  Some look more time consuming than others.  Those might be more fun for my family.  These gracious bloggers all allowed me to share their cookies with you!

Candy Cane Meringue Cookies by Bless This Mess
Red Velvet Cookies by Pink When
Mint Chocolate Brussels Cookies by the Cookie Rookie
Easy Gingerbread Cookies by Snap Creativity
Candy Filled Present Cookies by Hungry Happenings
Christmas Cookies by Lil’ Luna
Candy Cane Cookies by Home Cooking Memories
Grinch Cookies by Mom Dot
Christmas Tree Meringue Cookies by This Silly Girl’s Kitchen
Christmas Chocolate Kiss Cookies by The Kitchen is My Playground
Melting Snowmen Cookies by Homemade Hooplah
Stained Glass Cookies by Simply Recipes
Double Chocolate Peppermint Cookies by a Pumpkin and a Princess

Which cookies are standing out to you?  My first one to try has to be those Candy Cane Meringues.  I think they may be too delicate but between you and me, I just want to make them for myself. Oopsie!

What are your favorite cookie swap cookies?

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Welcome to Christmas in July, 2017

Welcome back to Christmas Tree Lane for Christmas in July!  After being quiet for a few months following Christmas, it is time for us to start getting back on the Christmas trail.

I have a confession to make.

We aren't celebrating Christmas at home this year.

That's right. My family and I have decided to celebrate in Cabo San Lucas this year and that means a whole lot of different planning.  I will share a long the way.

Until then, though, I want to celebrate with you for Christmas in July!  Every Wednesday I will post some fun things to do and fun recipes to try to help you celebrate on July 25. I don't know a lot of people who celebrate this holiday, so I celebrate it on my own.  AND I have a wonderful time doing it.

First off, check out these movies this month from  I am giddy with excitement over all the choices!

Saturday, July 15th
9a/8c: A Rose for Christmas
11a/10c: On the Twelfth Day of Christmas
1/12c: A Christmas Detour
3/2c: Looks Like Christmas
5/4c: The Mistletoe Promise
7/6c: A December Bride
9/8c: The Christmas Cure - A World Premiere Original

Tuesday, July 18th
2/1c: Let It Snow
4/3c: 12 Gifts of Christmas
6/5c: A Heavenly Christmas
8/7c: Sleigh Bells Ring

Thursday, July 20th
2/1c: Christmas Land
4/3c: Christmas Cookies
6/5c: A Wish for Christmas
8/7c: Looks Like Christmas

Sunday, July 23rd
9a/8c: I'm Not Ready for Christmas
11a/10c: Sleigh Bells Ring
1/12c: Christmas Incorporated
3/2c: A Dream of Christmas
5/4c: A Heavenly Christmas
7/6c: Every Christmas Has a Story
9/8c: My Christmas Love

My favorite activity for Christmas in July is to make Christmas cookies (usually one I am considering for my Christmas Cookie Exchange) and hot chocolate and what one of these movies that I have recorded!

Do you have a favorite movie from this list?